Room For Much Needed Improvement

I'll keep it short with any form of an introduction and get straight to it: these are some of the things I have seen in the series so far and some suggested changes. 3 offense, 3 defense, here we go.

Offensive Woes

This is the same old story. Unstoppable offense meets immovable defense. Too cliche? Yeah, I thought so too but in the end it's the truth. We saw it happen against Anaheim as the Ducks' pressing defenseman and relentless backchecking forwards made life difficult for Detroit scorers. In the end, the Wings were able to solve the D and Jonas Hiller. Not to discredit Marc-Andre Fleury's performance thus far but Hiller played far better than Fleury has but didn't have nearly the offensive cast that MAF does. So how can the Wings crack the scoring problems that have developed?

 

  • Get Marian Hossa to the slot: Hossa has been guilty in this series of persistently shooting from bad angles on the perimeter. These low percentage shots are only contributing to pucks the other way as Fleury is routinely stopping them with ease. How many goal in the playoffs has Hossa scored from these parts you ask? A gooseegg in that column. How many has he cored from the slot? All 6 have come in the slot or a result of him moving slightly out of it. The Pens aren't making the slot an easy place to occupy for an extended period of time but if he can move in and out, he can make a difference. He's not the biggest guy on the team but probably has the most strength with the puck and needs to start using that strength to score.
  • That Pavel Datsyuk guy: Yes, I know he is yet to play a game in the series. If Datsyuk comes back for Game 5 though, he can be an immediate impact not necessarily in the goal column but the assist one. Detroit improved in the face-off circle in Game 4 but Datsyuk could bring even added improvement in the circle and the Wings can get back to playing puck possession. Probably Datsyuk's biggest asset is his selflessness and he will constantly give up the puck if he thinks a teammate has a slightly better chance at a shot on goal. If he can get to distributing the puck early in his return, the Pens defense will have to spread out and respect the return of the Wings passing. 
  • Henrik Zetterberg getting some time in the offensive zone: So far this series, Hank has virtually been a third defensive man and has had to play back further on offense in the event of a quick breakout. Zetterberg has been held to 3 or fewer shots in 3 of 4 games due to his responsibilities defensively. Don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily want Hank to just fire away but he also has one of the best shots on the team and can score at any time. He can also make that back breaking pass to a teammate too, something he has been limited in opportunities to do so. Even though Pavel won't be 100% in Game 5, he will be able to take some of the defensive responsibilities off of Zetterberg' shoulders and give him a little bit more energy.
Defensive Woes
The offensive woes are practically nothing compared to the problems the highly talented defense is having. The Pens are by far the best offensive team the Detroit defense has faced all season and it may be starting to show. Columbus had 1 or 2  consistent scoring threats, the Ducks 2 or 3, the Blackhawks 4 or 5, but the Pens? Try about 7. Right now the Pens offense is playing bigger, faster, and meaner than the defense is willing to play. Here's what can help (maybe):
  • Brad Stuart or Niklas Kronwall: (or both) need to lay a Penguins player flat on his back. The hitting game has been sorely missed and both Kronwall and/or Stuart can change the complexion of that with one hit. Both are capable of making devastating clean hits and have shown it in these playoffs--just ask RJ Umberger or Martin Havlat. If these guys can get the hitting going, they can perhaps inspire the rest of the team to do the same and finally get the Penguins to be forced to respect and expect a hit everytime they have the puck. Do this and the Pens can become sloppy and force passes before they are necessary. 
  • Get back to the basics: some, if not all, of the guys have gotten "too cutesy" trying to make pretty passes to clear the zone. Get it out, regroup, and don't give up the blueline. Far too many times I've counted 3 or more Wings players playing far back in the defensive zone and allowing the Pittsburgh rush to just waltz in untouched. Get guys upfront and force them to dump and chase. I'd much rather see them battle for possession in the zone than just walk in with it already established.
  • For Stanley's sake, somebody cover Evgeni Malkin: I'm getting tired of looking in the box score and seeing "Evgeni Malkin" under assists or goals. I know he's a great player but he can be stopped. With 35 points in the playoffs--and the lamest celebration--Malkin has established himself as a great playoff player. Malkin can be shut down (or at least slowed down) by putting a big body on him like Johan Franzen, Marian Hossa and alternating a big defender like Jonathan Ericsson or Brad Stuart. Ericsson's probably not the best idea given his propensity to take penalties but if Malkin is forced to use his size and strength instead of just being allowed to do as he pleases, there could be a slowdown in his production.
That's it for now, let's sit back and see if any of these happen in Game 5.

 

 

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